“My Year Abroad is a strange and stirring amalgam: a tender novel about business, ambition, and appetite. With great generosity, and in a searching, democratic spirit, Chang-rae Lee describes the enticements, mirages, pleasures and catastrophes that attend not only the pursuit of wealth but the pursuit of happiness in all its forms, romantic, domestic, and, yes, gustatory. In Pong Lou, he has given American literature a character who deserves his place among other tragic dreamers, from Gatsby to J.R.”


This novel about a young man named Tiller is divided into two sections, one about his business life with a man named Pong, a rich entrepreneur who takes an interest in Tiller because of Tillers outstanding ability to taste and describe what he is tasting, judging how good it is or what it might need to be better, and Tiller’s life with Val and her autistic son Veej. The story goes back and forth in the book between both life experiences.

Val is in witness protection because she turned states evidence on her ex husband. Her son Veej is becoming an outstanding cook, even though he is a young teenager.
Pong on the other hand discovers Tiller’s abilities and so takes him under his wing, bringing him to Asia on important business trips as Tiller’s fortunes rise in Pongs organization,
The Pong story chronologically is before Tiller meets Val. Under Pong, Tiller will experience the many sides of the business world, good and evil and with Val he will learn to live under constant pressure because of Val’s status, and he will learn how to care for and love a young boy who steadily grows fonder of Tiller.
Well written but at times a little long winded, it is still a good story with many twists and turns. Recommended.


Reviewed by:

Richard Franco

Added 22nd April 2021

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Richard Franco